What gives you joy?
This is an essential question to ask yourself. Unfortunately, often we are not in tune with our own desires enough to be able to fully answer the question. If you have to think very long to come up with your answer, then you prove my point.
Joy is a hard concept to grasp. It’s more complex than happiness in that it is not an emotion or transient. It goes deep. It touches your bones.
Recently we asked staff and patients at the Church Health Center this question and got answers that run the gamut.
Family and friends.
Dancing like no one is watching.
Being a mother.
Love of God.
The list went on and on.
There is no right answer to the question. Neither is there a limit to the number of answers. For me personally, what gives me joy includes my work, my wife, my puppy, learning, my friends, my church, laughter, sports. It’s a long list.
What I hope is that I am in tune with each experience of joy as it is happening. For too much of our lives, we let those things that bring us joy slip through our fingers like water.
It is also important to recognize the opposite of joy, which I consider to be anger. The movie “Philomena,” is based on a true story. Martin, a journalist, tries to help an elderly woman find the son who was taken from her when he was young. As the circumstances unfold and Martin understands what happened, he becomes increasingly indignant and furious at the people who unjustly changed Philomena’s life. At one point, while he is in a rage, Philomena stops him in his tracks. He says, “But I am so angry!” To which she replies, “It must be so exhausting.”
Yes, exactly. Anger will exhaust you while joy will invigorate you.
Pure joy is a source of unbounded energy. When I see it expressed in someone else, I want to put a straw in the person to pull out joy and taste it for myself. But what I know is that I must find my own source of joy and limit the anger I feel, no matter how righteous my indignation.
Anger will consume you. Joy will build you up.
As a physician, I often encounter people who have physical complaints I’m confident are caused by their lack of joy. I have no pills to make them better. Searching ourselves for the source of joy in our own lives is worth the effort and leads to true health, just as anger will bleed the life out of you as surely as a knife to the heart.
What gives you joy? It is worth asking yourself that question on a regular basis and making sure you are living your life so that every day your joy is made complete.
To read more about joy and its role in our health, see the Summer 2014 issue of the Church Health Center’s magazine, Church Health Reader, at http://www.chreader.org.